What motivated you to write a book(s) that is specifically inclusive of LGBTQ families/issues?
I was motivated to write my memoir two years ago. I was taking a travel writing class online and realized that at times my perception of travel had been affected by growing up in a closeted gay family. While I loved writing about travel I had an epiphany that the story I really wanted to tell was about my life. Growing up in a very conservative state my family dealt with a lot of adversity. And because my dad is the former Chief Judge of the Idaho State Court of Appeals and had to run for re-election every few years, he wasn’t able to be out publicly. But by the time I was taking this class my dad had retired and a few months earlier he’d legally wed his partner of 18 years. Our family was finally in a position where we didn’t have to fear retaliation based on my dad’s sexuality. Because I know there are still many people living in closeted LGBTQ families, I wanted to share our story since we could safely do so. Luckily for me, my family agreed.
What do you personally feel makes a family?
For me, family is about unconditional love. I had blood relatives that disowned me because my dad was gay; to me, they were not truly family. And I have others in my life that I’m not related to who are dear to me. I think in the LGBTQ community we often have to make our own families. Love and acceptance are the most precious gifts we can give to each other.
What does “equality” look like to you?
On my website I have a statement in my bio: “Natalie is an Idaho native who believes in a future where gay families are equal and no longer have to hide in the closet out of fear.” Equality means equal rights under the law but also equal protections. For example, now that we have marriage equality some people outside the LGBTQ community think that we’ve achieved equality. Yet there are many who still fear for their safety. We need equality not just for marriage but also for living our everyday lives such as eating at restaurants, working and being able to rent and buy homes.
Whose books do you admire and why?
This is tough. While I write nonfiction and poetry, I actually prefer to read a lot of fiction and things that are light-hearted. Between my work as an LGBTQ family advocate and my work in a community cancer clinic, I don’t like to read anything too serious. (Reading is usually an escape for me.) I’m not sure that there are books that I admire, but I do admire JK Rowling. She’s an incredible writer, is outspoken about human rights, and constantly encourages people to keep going even when others tell them their work isn’t good enough. I’ve been motivated by her ever since she posted her own rejection letters on social media. It’s truly inspiring to remember that even the best writers face negative responses now and then.
What’s coming up next for you?
I look at my book as an educational tool; I believe in writing as a form of activism. I plan to continue my advocacy work. I would love to get more into public speaking. I have two other books that I’m working on as a follow up to this one, although they are still in the very early stages. I would also like to start writing more poetry again.